One mile outside Myakka River State Park, the Crowley Museum and Nature Center east of Sarasota has charms much greater than its modest size.
While the state park lets you experience the natural beauty of this prairie country, the Crowley Museum introduces you to the people who settled here.
There are several pioneer buildings, including a one-room pioneer cabin and the two-story 1889 Tatum House, both filled with items that help you picture life in these parts in the late 1800s. There’s a museum with an extensive exhibit on Florida Crackers full of details new to me.
But on our March visit, we found particular delight in the farm animals. Squirt the sow lounged near the area where ponies are fenced. Cattle grazed nearby, and chickens joined us at the picnic table when we had lunch. Children would love the place.
The boardwalk and nature trail around the property is also well worth taking. The birding was excellent – a pair of indigo buntings were hanging around a feeder and on the trail a red-shouldered hawk landed nearby. The spring-fed creek burbles along as the trail leads you to the marsh and a tower overlooking it.
The Crowley Museum and Nature Center feels like a well-loved place fueled by volunteers and local residents devoted to preserving it.
Thank goodness they are, because this is one of those old nearly forgotten spots in Florida history.
Old Myakka (which is alternately spelled Miakka) was settled in the 1850s and was on a frequently travelled route for pioneers of the era. In 1915, however, the railroad came through and bypassed the old settlement. People and commercial activity moved north to what became Myakka City, on the railroad route.
Old Myakka still appears on maps, but it was left to pass through the years with fewer changes until the Crowley Museum and Nature Center began preserving these remnants of early days.
Crowley Museum and Nature Center
16405 Myakka Road, Sarasota, FL 34240
The Crowley Museum is located about a mile north of the northern entrance to Myakka River State Park. (That entrance is only open on weekends.)
Bicyclists riding in the state park can easily visit Crowley by bike.
Here’s a Florida Rambler story about Myakka River State Park, one of the oldest and biggest in the Florida state park system.
Admission: Adults: $6; kids (3-18): 32.
Hours: Saturdayand Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. “in fair weather,” according to the website.
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.